How are there not more homeless people in Hong Kong?

With Hong Kong’s real estate 70% over market value, I have been baffled as to how there are not homeless people sprawled across the street when I walk home at night. With land mass roughly the size of Los Angeles, the city-state has roughly twice LA’s population with over 7 million people.

While I balked at the $5,000 per month people in Central pay to rent on room apartments, expats, especially those with family who have been living here for decades have made fortunes out of banking and real estate. This to me meant that people who could not afford this rent would move out to other regions. But what about the majority of people in Hong Kong who make the median income of US$17,500 (Information Services Department for Hong Kong SAR, 2009)?

The answer, as my coworker matter-of-factly told me, likes in subsidized housing. About half of the 40 story skyscrapers we see around Hong Kong are lower-priced housing. These housing projects began in 1953 when a fire destroyed the homes of thousands of Chinese refugees (Wikipedia).

The government has also created what is known as a “Sandwhich Class Housing Scheme”, which allows those who are lower-middle to middle class  who do not qualify for the public housing to buy these properties below market value. While these homes were popular, the government stopped the project in 2000, much to the chagrin of Hong Kong residents, who want the government to continue building such properties.

Despite the sky-high prices that leaves people with little savings, the good news (or is it?) for homeowners is that Hong Kong real estate prices are growing rapidly. One of my coworkers, a newlywed, purchased an apartment in New Territories for about US$100,000. He says the market price for the house since then has already doubled. Newspapers everyday, warn about the real estate bubble bursting, which would leave Hong Kong residents with a small space and no savings to show for it.

About Alice Wang

Considered a modern hippie by her friends, Alice Wang spent her formative undergraduate years at UC Davis doing interpretive dance to Britney Spears with her roommate and withstanding gawking from her friends for wearing offensive seatbelt strapped sandals from REI around town. Although she was an Animal Biology, Alice has loved the idea of being a journalist, of exposing or bringing to light raw truths. Blessed with a mom who loves to travel, she recently stayed on an ecolodge in the Brazilian Pantanal, floated on a boat through Malaysian rainforest and just returned from a two week trip to Egypt. Some of her fondest memories were spent soaked in sweat tracking bats in Taipei where she overindulged in street food, the dirtier the better. During her tours through these areas she developed an interest for the environment, human rights and how religion and tradition influence culture and lifestyle, particularly Muslim culture. With a love for novel experiences and thirst to know the details about everything, Alice hopes to parlay her travels and desire for deep human connection into a career journalistic blogging. Follow Alice Wang on twitter @wangwawang
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